This month, I decided to shut down my 5-year old project and start something new.
Back in 2016, when I was just fresh out of highschool, I started a project (events platform, similar to Eventbrite) with an older friend. We thought we had everything to succeed: he had an app for parties invitations, which actually had a pretty significant amount of users, he had contacts and I had the technical skill to build the platform.
I spent about 10 months getting everything ready — at the beginning, I was going to college, though I quit mid 2016. We had events, multiple tickets, payment integration (credit card and bank slip, which is widely used in Brazil), everything we needed to calculate how much we should pay each user (the event holders), the authentication app to be used by the event staff, etc.
Well, the time came: we were ready to launch. But... we had no events. We talked to a few people and we were able to get an event on the site. Sadly, most of the sales were done physically instead of through our site.
We kept improving the platform and we managed to a few events there, but trouble started to come up: first of all, frauds. Credit card frauds are very common in Brazil. People would buy tickets, go to the event (or sell them) and then initiate a chargeback with their credit card's network. It's pretty tricky to win one — we needed some proof they went to the event, such as a video recording, so, usually, event platforms in Brazil just refund the money. After that we implemented Sift Science to help us get rid of frauds. It did decrease a bit, but we were still losing some money.
A couple of months later, we were holding a bit event. We had ~ R$ 30K sales in less than 24 hours, which as a huge milestone for us. The platform was holding everything up just fine and we were pretty happy. Except that 24 hours before the event, the performers had some issues and wouldn't be able to come to Brazil. The event was postponed. We had to develop some new features very quickly — not everyone should be refunded, only those who clicked the "Refund Me" button on their order page. Refunding bank slips was also not easy -- we had to manually transfer the person's money.
After that, they decided to go with another platform and we lost that client. We kept holding a few events every month, but we were always losing money. Always.
Fast forward a couple years, we developed some exciting features, including an unique system to sell tickets physically, which is still common in Brazil. We managed to get a client that'd bring us ~R$ 600 in profit every month, but besides them, we basically didn't have any relevant event on the platform. Even though we had that physical selling system, we weren't able to get clients — maybe my partner couldn't sell, maybe we just weren't worth the hassle of changing platforms, whatever. Point is: even though we've had something unique in the market, we weren't able to make money. At this point I was already tired of the project and was just doing it because... well, because yes.
Meanwhile, I were always doing some freelance on the side to maintain myself, and our project was always on the red. Besides working several hours a week on it, I had to pay server costs, software costs, etc. We should have shut that down on 2017, when we had already launched for over a year. I guess the idea of failing is what kept me from shutting it down. I didn't want to accept that it failed, and today I see that this is okay. Not everything works out.
So, fast forward to this year, we decided to go all out: I redesigned the main pages of the app, we hired a sales guy to help out and we tried actively selling it again. It wasn't working out and with the Coronavirus pandemic — which means there are no events right now —, I accepted that it must be shut down.
Honestly, it's very hard to accept that the thing you worked on for years didn't give you a single dime and is now shutting down, but right now I'm happy to have done so. It didn't work out, but I learned a lot and now, when I start something new, I already know what I have to do in a lot of situations.
We haven't shut down the server yet but we've already stopped accepting new clients. We refunded everyone that had an active order and events can't be created anymore, and this is a relief. That means I have to stop giving maintenance to something I didn't like working on anymore.
I've learned that I must fail fast — I didn't enjoy working on the app anymore in 2017-18. I should've quit then. I could've started another project back then, and, perhaps it could've worked out.
My point with this text is that you don't have to always succeed. Not everything works out — most people only expose the good that works to them and that can make us afraid of failing. The number of people who can make a business work out on the first try is low — they are the minority. So, if I've taken anything from this, is that I should accept when something doesn't work out and move on, and, if possible, fail fast instead of dragging it like a zombie for years.
Something is not making money for a month? OK, that happens. A few months and draining a lot of your time? That shouldn't happen, but some businesses take awhile to generate revenue. It's been a year and you didn't make a single dime? Move on. You don't have to kill the project if you really think it has a future, but at least don't spend much time on it.
Now I'm building a new SaaS product — an app focused on remote work and asynchronous communication. One of the biggest issues I've faced as a developer and also working on this project is communication. I think we are the most productive when we don't have to wait for people or anything else and can communicate asynchronously, so I'm building something like Trello on steroids, focused on broader discussions instead of several small tasks and comments. I plan to keep posting here as it goes, and will also post updates on my twitter. For the first time in years, I'm excited to code for myself again!